Commentary on the Bible, by Adam Clarke, , at sacred-texts.com
The feast of the Lord, Lev 23:1, Lev 23:2. The Sabbath, Lev 23:3. The passover and unleavened bread, Lev 23:4-8. The feast of first-fruits, Lev 23:9-14. The feast of pentecost, Lev 23:15-21. Gleanings to be left for the poor, Lev 23:22. The feast of trumpets, Lev 23:23-25. The great day of atonement, Lev 23:26-32. The feast of tabernacles, Lev 23:33-44.
These are my feasts - The original word מועד moad is properly applied to any solemn anniversary, by which great and important ecclesiastical, political, or providential facts were recorded; see Clarke on Gen 1:14 (note). Anniversaries of this kind were observed in all nations; and some of them, in consequence of scrupulously regular observation, became chronological epochs of the greatest importance in history: the Olympiads, for example.
The seventh day is the Sabbath - This, because the first and greatest solemnity, is first mentioned. He who kept not this, in the most religious manner, was not capable of keeping any of the others. The religious observance of the Sabbath stands at the very threshold of all religion. See Clarke's note on Gen 2:3.
The Lord's passover - See this largely explained in the notes on Exo 12:21-27 (note).
He shalt wave the sheaf - He shall move it to and fro before the people, and thereby call their attention to the work of Divine Providence, and excite their gratitude to God for preserving to them the kindly fruits of the earth. See Clarke's note on Exo 29:27, and Exodus 7 at end.
Ye shall eat neither bread, nor parched corn, nor green ears - It is right that God, the dispenser of every blessing, should be acknowledged as such, and the first-fruits of the field, etc., dedicated to him. Concerning the dedication of the first-fruits, see the note on Exo 22:29. Parched ears of corn and green ears, fried, still constitute a part, and not a disagreeable one, of the food of the Arabs now resident in the Holy Land. See Hasselquist.
Ye shall count unto you - seven Sabbaths - That is, from the sixteenth of the first month to the sixth of the third month. These seven weeks, called here Sabbaths, were to be complete, i. e., the forty-nine days must be finished, and the next day, the fiftieth, is what, from the Septuagint, we call pentecost. See the note on Luk 6:1.
Neither shalt thou gather any gleaning - See the note on Lev 19:9.
A memorial of blowing of trumpets - This is generally called the feast of trumpets; and as it took place on the first day of the seventh month, Tisri, which answers to September, which month was the commencement of what was called the civil year, the feast probably had no other design than to celebrate the commencement of that year, if indeed such a distinction obtained among the ancient Jews. See the note on Exo 12:2. Some think creation began at this time.
A day of atonement - See the note on Lev 16:2, etc., where this subject is largely explained.
The feast of tabernacles - In this solemnity the people left their houses, and dwelt in booths or tents made of the branches of goodly trees and thick trees, (of what kind the text does not specify), together with palm-trees and willows of the brook, Lev 23:40. And in these they dwelt seven days, in commemoration of their forty years' sojourning and dwelling in tents in the wilderness while destitute of any fixed habitations. In imitation of this feast among the people of God, the Gentiles had their feasts of tents. Plutarch speaks particularly of feasts of this kind in honor of Bacchus, and thinks from the custom of the Jews in celebrating the feast of tabernacles, that they worshipped the god Bacchus, "because he had a feast exactly of the same kind called the feast of tabernacles, Σκηνη, which they celebrated in the time of vintage, bringing tables out into the open air furnished with all kinds of fruit, and sitting under tents made of vine branches and ivy." - Plut. Symp., lib. iv., Q. 6. According to Ovid the feast of Anna Perenna was celebrated much in the same way. Some remained in the open air, others formed to themselves tents and booths made of branches of trees, over which they spread garments, and kept the festival with great rejoicings.
"Sub Jove pars durat; pauci tentoria ponunt;
Sunt, quibus e ramis frondea facta easa est.
Pars sibi pro rigidis calamos statuere columnis;
Desuper extentas imposuere togas."
Ovid, Fast., lib. ill.
Concerning this feast of tabernacles, see the note on Joh 7:37, Joh 7:38; and for the various feasts among the Jews, See the note on Exo 23:14.
Boughs of goodly trees - The Jews and many critics imagine the citron-tree to be intended, and by boughs of thick tree the myrtle.
That your generations may know, etc. - By the institution of this feast God had two great objects in view:
1. To perpetuate the wonderful display of his providence and grace in bringing them out of Egypt, and in preserving them in the wilderness.
2. To excite and maintain in them a spirit of gratitude and obedience, by leading them to consider deeply the greatness of the favors which they had received from his most merciful hands.
Signal displays of the mercy, kindness, and providential care of God should be particularly remembered. When we recollect that we deserve nothing at his hands, and that the debt of gratitude is all the debt we can pay, in it we should be cheerful, fervent, and frequent. An ungrateful heart is an unfeeling, unloving, unbelieving, and disobedient heart. Reader, pray to God that he may deliver thee from its influence and its curse.